Jean-François Revel

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Jean-François Revel
Revel in 1999
Revel in 1999
Born Jean-François Ricard
(1924-01-19)19 January 1924
Marseille, France
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Kremlin-Bicêtre, France
Language French
Nationality French
Education Lycée du Parc
École normale supérieure
Spouse Claude Sarraute
Yahne le Toumelin
Children Matthieu Ricard

Jean-François Revel (born Jean-Francois Ricard; 19 January 1924 – 30 April 2006) was a French journalist, author, philosopher and a member of the Académie française from June 1998 onwards. A socialist in his youth, Revel later became a prominent European proponent of classical liberalism and free market economics.

Revel is best known for his books Without Marx or Jesus: The New American Revolution Has Begun, The Flight from Truth : The Reign of Deceit in the Age of Information and his 2002 book Anti-Americanism, one year after the September 11 attacks of 2001.[1] In the last of these books, Revel criticized anti-Americanism and those Europeans who argued that the United States had brought the terrorist attacks upon itself through misguided foreign policies. He wrote thus: "Obsessed by their hatred and floundering in illogicality, these dupes forget that the United States, acting in its own self-interest, is also acting in the interest of us Europeans and in the interests of many other countries which are threatened, or have already been subverted and ruined, by terrorism." In 1975 he delivered the Huizinga Lecture in Leiden, The Netherlands, under the title: La tentation totalitaire (English: The Totalitarian Temptation).

Early life and education

Revel was born Jean-François Ricard, but later adopted his pseudonym Revel as his legal surname.[2] During the German occupation of France in WWII, Revel participated in the French Resistance and later noted that the officious but disgraceful manner of French collaborators influenced his writings.[2]

Revel studied at the Lycée du Parc in Lyon and was accepted at the prestigious École normale supérieure where he studied philosophy.


Revel with his son in 1999.

Revel began his career as a philosophy professor, and taught in Algeria, Italy and Mexico, before settling in Lille. He stopped teaching in 1963 and embarked on his career as an essayist and writer, as well as directing various publications. From 1998 to 2006, he was president of the Institut d'Histoire Sociale. His successor is Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie. In 1986, Revel was honored with an honorary doctorate degree[3] for his commitment to individual freedom.

A socialist until the late 1960s, Revel was a speechwriter for socialist President François Mitterrand and ran as a socialist candidate in parliamentary elections in 1967 but lost. During the Cold War, Revel was known as a champion of classical liberal values such as liberty and democracy at a time when many preeminent European intellectuals praised Communism or Maoism.[2] The publication of his 1970 book, Without Marx or Jesus: The New American Revolution Has Begun signalled the transition of his views to liberal "philosopher of freedom in the tradition of Raymond Aron."[2] In 1973 he was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto II.[4]

Personal life

He is survived by his second wife, Claude Sarraute, a journalist, and has three sons from two marriages. His first marriage to painter Yahne le Toumelin ended in divorce.

One of his sons, Matthieu Ricard, is a well-known Buddhist monk who studied molecular biology at the Pasteur Institute before converting to Tibetan Buddhism. Father and son jointly authored a book Le moine et le philosophe (The Monk and the Philosopher) about the son's conversion and Buddhism.


  • Revel, Jean-François (1958). Pourquoi les philosophes ?.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (awarded Fénéon Prize)
  • Revel, Jean-François (1958). Pour l'Italie.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Revel, Jean-François (1972). Without Marx or Jesus. ISBN 0-440-59729-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Revel, Jean-François (1976). The Totalitarian Temptation.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Revel, Jean-François (1983). How Democracies Perish. ISBN 0060970111.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Revel, Jean-François (1992). The Flight from Truth: The Reign of Deceit in the Age of Information. ISBN 0-394-57643-8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Revel, Jean-François (1993). Democracy Against Itself: The Future of the Democratic Impulse/Regain démocratique. ISBN 0-02-926387-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Revel, Jean-François (1999). The Monk and the Philosopher : A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning of Life. ISBN 0-8052-1103-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Revel, Jean-François (2003). The Anti-American Obsession: Its Functioning, Its Causes, Its Inconsequentialness/La obsesión antiamericana. ISBN 1-893554-85-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Revel, Jean-François (2003). Europe's Anti-American Obsession. The View from Abroad. The American Enterprise Institute. Retrieved 4 December 2003.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Revel, Jean-François (2003). Anti-Americanism. San Francisco: Encounter Books. ISBN 1-59403-060-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Revel, Jean-François (2009). Last Exit to Utopia: The Survival of Socialism in a Post-Soviet Era/Le Grande Parade. New York City, New York: Encounter Books. ISBN 9781594032646. OCLC 320952665. Retrieved 3 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. "French Thinker, Journalist Jean-Francois Revel, 82". Washington Post. 3 May 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "J.-F. Revel, French Philosopher, Is Dead at 82". New York Times. 2 May 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Honorary Doctoral Degrees at Universidad Francisco Marroquín
  4. "Humanist Manifesto II". American Humanist Association. Retrieved 10 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Martin, Douglas (2 May 2006). "J-F Revel, French Philosopher, is dead at 82". The New York Times. B. The New York Times Company. p. 7. Retrieved 3 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Étienne Wolff
Seat 24
Académie française
Succeeded by
Max Gallo